In podcasting, most people just plug in a microphone and start recording. While the end result is good with you, others might notice differences. “Audiophiles” are people with a finely-tuned ears. They can hear imperfections you might not be able to.
The biggest complaint of audiophiles is the sound of the audio after it gets compressed even to 128 kbps. Recording a show in the highest quality helps when you finalize your podcast. We’re going to look at how you can record your RAW files at high quality so you can make the best sounding show possible.
The Difference Between 16 bit and 24 bit
The best way to think of it is to visualize. I used the iconic character Mario for this example. An 8 bit audio signal is like a NES Mario. With 16 bit audio, you can get 65,536 possible levels to that audio, therefore you will capture more frequencies and have a better looking Mario. With 24 bit you can get over 16 million levels in your audio – giving you more options in post-production.
A CDs sample rate is 44.1 kHz (or 44,100 samples per second). With 24 bit you can push audio up to 96,000 samples per second.
Now here’s reality – When you mix down, its going to most likely be CD quality – 128 kbps at 44.1 kHz or even 96 or 64 kbps at 44.1 kHz. If you do the latter, capturing sound at 96,000 samples per second is even more important because the mp3 compressor has more to work with.
It’s not that you cannot get great quality in a 16-bit recording. In Rob Greenlee’s “My Digital Life”, he replayed a conversation he had with Mark Ramsey from 2005. In listening to the podcast, I was impressed with the high quality of that .wav file.
Great Case Scenarios for Recording in 24-bit
In my show – Day in Tech History – I recorded 365 days of tech history, updating only the days that have new news for the next year. By recording the daily .wav files at 24-bit/96,000, I can re-visit those files and put them into the updated podcast file without the quality sounding too much different.
How to Record in 24-Bit
Recording in 24-bit needs as much of a Hardware requirement as software. Certain USB microphones and sound cards may not be able to record above 16-bit. Even though some might have a 24-bit option, your hardware specifications limit the end result.
Here’s a Tip: Check your specifications of the microphone. A Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone specs include 18Hz – 18,000 kHz range, 600 ohms balanced and an output level of -53.9dB at 1,000 Hz. This makes for a great recording mic, in-turn a great recording.
Windows: Choose your Recording devices. Select the device and go into properties. On the Advanced tab is where you can change format. If your sound device can do 24-bit, the drop-down menu will contain the option.
Mac: From the desktop, choose Go -> Utilities then find Audio MIDI Setup. Select your audio source and choose it’s bit rate.
Wait – What About 32-bit Recording? Is there 64-bit Recording, too?
That is certainly an option and gives you even more audio to work with. However there are two reasons why you might not want to use this: 1. It takes up a lot of space and resource on your computer to record and store. 2. There are limitations for 32-bit audio – Some recording devices can only record up to 2 GB in 32-bit audio.
Another codec is RF64 – which is 64-bit multi-channel recording. If you are recording 5.1 surround or multiple track (up to 18 channels), this codec is what you need. There is a 4GB limit on 64-bit wav. So it might be overkill if you are recording your own show.
One thing to note: A good sounding show is more than just the bit rate. Good hardware that puts out quality audio is just as important. For example: While Rob Greenlee’s 2005 audio sounded great in 16-bit, he also had spent a lot of money on the hardware to record it on. Whether you record in 16 or 24 bit for longevity is your choice. That is, unless you are recording a podcast focusing audiophiles. At that point you better have the best quality possible…